The remaining fuel from the Chinese rocket illuminates the Alaskan sky

Clouds of frozen fuel emitted by a Chinese rocket lit up the Alaskan sky last month and caught everyone’s attention. The material spreads over an area larger than the apparent size of the full moon, and when hit by the sun’s rays, the aurora in the background becomes brighter than the borealis.

At around 5:00 am (local time) on March 29, residents of Fairbanks, Alaska, saw a ball of blue light slowly across the sky.

“It looked like something was going on inside,” resident Leslie Smallwood told local news portal KUAC.

Fortunately, the cameras powered by the Aurora Chaser were armed to record the Aurora that was happening that night in almost real-time, taking pictures of the sky every 45 seconds. Six of these images show the bluish ball, suggesting that it took at least four minutes to travel through the area.

The remaining fuel from the Chinese rocket illuminates the Alaskan sky
The remaining fuel from the Chinese rocket illuminates the Alaskan sky

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, said on his Twitter account that the illuminated ball matched the orbit of the Long March 6 rocket, which was launched on March 29. The rocket will release fuel residue which then freezes.

Clouds of matter are illuminated by the sun and spread.

“These clouds probably cover hundreds of miles; That’s why it looks so big, “McDowell added. Other scientists agree with the astronomer’s interpretation.

McDowell further explains that the ball appears to be spinning because when the rocket releases fuel, it moves to a controlled drop to maintain its orbit, turning it “like a garden foot” throwing the rest of the fuel.

Image Credit: Aurora Chasers / Ron Murray / Merceta Murray

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